negative bias

The most difficult word in the English language

Recently I went through a transition within my career. I left a company and industry I had been working in for almost 12 years. It was an extremely exhausting process. One filled with pain, anger and uncertainty. I chose to full-heartedly embrace that transition because I could see where it was leading. I didn't see the end destination necessarily but I could see how this was the right road to try and walk down. That vision is a beautiful thing but it doesn't necessarily make it any easier.

Typically, transition doesn't have that much appeal for people. I happen to know quite a few people who have been in flux for months and are coming up to a large transition in the workplace. I get calls every single day from people requesting help with their resume's and Linkedin profiles. They express uncertainty and feelings of fear, anxiety and in few (very few) cases a little bit of excitement.. This, of course is understandable, we as humans do not respond well to change.

In terms of change at work, the number one reason that people have feelings of anxiety and fear is because so much is unknown. it makes sense, think about the beginning of time and cave men were the hunters of the family.

Risk society is the manner in which modern society organizes in response to risk.
— wikipedia

There was so much unknown in their lives and therefore they were in a constant state of fear. It works that way for "negative bias" which we have discussed before but it also exhibits itself in other ways. One of those ways is something called "risk society".

transition
[tran-zish-uh n, -sish-]
noun
1. movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change:
— www.dictionary.com

A fancy term to say we freak out when we think something is on the line. So how we do stop freaking out? First things first, let's really talk about what the word "transition" really means. The first thing that stands out (at least to me) is that none of the words used to describe transition carry a negative conotation. In fact the definition actually describes a process of MOVING FORWARD.

You may have notice the painstaking efforts I made to stay away from the word "change". I did that because I think that words causes seizures in people or something. But in the end it all boils down to change. We as a species do not take well to change.

I found an article from Forbes Magazine written by Jacquelyn Smith with some great tips for transition, "12 Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Change at Work"

12 tips is great and the article is actually worth a read BUT...if you are anything like me, 12 feels like a lot. (said as I ramble on for multiple paragraphs). For this reason I thought it might be good to focus on one that isn't on the list. 

STOP TALKING

How simple is that? The first thing everyone wants to do when they freak out is find out as much information as they can from any source that they can. The problem with this is that it turns into one giant game of telephone. Remember that game from childhood? Nothing correct ever comes out on top in the game of telephone.

It is important for me to note that I did NOT use this advice when I went through my work transition. I looked for information any and everywhere I could. That is why it is my advice to you. I lived through it. I came out on the other end but I had a lot of bruises along the way. This is my advice. stop talking about it. stop listening to it. Whenever possible take the telephone away from your ear. Having rumors swirling in your head only brings about more fear. Imagine if you got the heck out of the game and could just wait for the real phone call to come in.

If you need to talk to someone, make it a friend outside of work and talk about something completely unrelated. Make it one of those friends that makes you smile and laugh and get silly with them.

Yup, I am talking about good old fashioned taking your mind off the situation. It is not avoidance per se, it is redistributing your energy into something you that doesn't make your blood pressure raise. 

SOURCES:

http://bit.ly/1eZI4BO

http://bit.ly/1uDecdJ

http://onforb.es/1JsnMe8

http://bit.ly/1CIh2DR

the comparison game

When I was younger, one of the things I spent most of my time on was tearing myself down. I didn’t need anyone around to do it. I was quite good at it. In fact I carried a black belt in it, even had the WWF championship belt given to those that are able to knock themselves out. At the time, I honestly thought I was the only one in the entire world who felt this way. As a pre-teen I would hide in the back of my closet with magazines, notebooks and journals that I would then fill with words to outline all of the ways in which I didn’t measure up.

I would compare myself to most anybody but more often than not I chose to compare myself to my siblings. I am the oldest of six. The gap is 14 years between the oldest and youngest. Each one of them has veritable cornucopia of amazing and unique things about them. I was always the proud “big” sister that would show up to every play, choir concert, soccer game, taekwondo practice etc. and aside from my Mom, I am pretty sure I was the loudest cheerleader that was there.

My comparison was not one of malice. It was jealousy, of course, but it was the kind of jealousy that made me think I didn’t measure up. They did all of these wonderful things and all I did was, well in my mind I did nothing. I became one of those people that was constantly on a search for “my talent”. From as far back as I can remember, every one of my siblings just had something special about them. They were all talented. 

My brother is an artist who would blow your mind. No joke, he doesn’t just draw, he builds things, and basically is good at everything he attempts. Add to this his quick wit and old people love him. Well lots of people love him but especially old people. I have no idea why.


There is my brother who was a second degree black belt before Jr High. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school and is maybe the most charming person you will ever meet. He is witty and knows how to turn a phrase like no other.


I have a sister who is a championship roller-skater, cheerleader, dancer and fashion savant. She has the most positive natural energy and loyalty of anyone you will ever meet and doesn’t give up on anything ever.


My brother was a basketball phenom. He was the kid people loved to watch play and my Dad loved to coach. He has this natural ability that seemed to appear straight from the womb. He's hungry to learn as much as he can about people & takes chances in his life more than most.


My sister, the comedienne & writer. She'll read this & roll her eyes but she is the smartest person I know and sees the world as whole. She uses humor & words to understand & explore the world. Nobody can make you laugh like her. Don’t even get me started about her Ralph Machio impression.


Did I mention that they also all happen to be really really really good looking? Like Zoolander good looking?

So imagine me, the first one, the oldest, a pasty, scrawny girl with fluffy blonde hair and eczema all over. (umm, yes that is a real pre-teen picture of me on Valentines Day and yes I see the outfit.) I was/am loud, chatty and bossy but I brought no “talent” to the team. I was the bench player who was great at cheering and bringing everyone their sweat towels to feel part of the team but I was never going to get to play. I spent many a conversation crying to my mother and asking her “why am I not good at anything, why don’t I have a talent?”

“But you do. You’re talent is business.” She would say as she stroked my hair to calm me down. It didn’t work.

“That is not a talent” I would inevitably yell. Of course I didn’t storm out because who is gonna leave when their Mom is playing with their hair? I was sad not dumb.


If I could so clearly see everything that they were good at why was it that I couldn’t recognize any talent within myself? Was I being too strict with my definition? Was I not seeing something that was there? 

The truth is, it is all about playing the comparison game. We compare ourselves to everyone else around us and use that to gauge how successful, talented and/or worthwhile we are. Most of the time we don't even know we are doing it. Research says there are a lot of reasons we do this:

  • comparison helps provide us a bar to reach for
  • we are socialized to compete with others not just in sport but in everything (think young school age girls and the hierarchy involved, think politics, think sports, you get the drift.)
  • lack of confidence
  • social media
  • etc. 

We have all heard some version of the saying "don't compare your worst day with someone else's best day" or worse yet with their social media best day. It's not real. We not only compare ourselves to everyone but we compare them on stuff that isn't even real.

We now curate our lives into our own story and the version of fabulous we use is rarely accurate in its retelling.

So let's stop already. Easier said than done right? Well, maybe not. Maybe if we take what learned on Negative Bias and apply it here it could actually help us reduce our need to compare. Think of it this way, if we are focusing on the positive things in our lives we are bound to find our purpose. When we find our purpose we live a happier life. When we live a happier life we don't have a reason to compare because we see, honor and respect the amazing things we have.

So...have I stopped comparing myself to my siblings? Most of the time, yes. I slip every once in awhile, because they really are amazing. But...finding my purpose and passion changed everything. I like what I'm doing, who I am and who I have around me. It's a pretty dope feeling so I have decided to own that and let them own their awesomeness as well.

Oh, and by the way, I did find my talent and while business is great and I am glad to have a head for it. My talent is what I was put on this earth for. Want to know what it is? Read the "DO" section on this website. How do you battle the comparison game? Tell me in the comments below?

 


SOURCES:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-paul-phd/self-worth_b_2855751.html

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/08/30/how-to-break-out-of-the-comparison-trap/

conquering negative bias

I pride myself on being a curator of positive content both online and off. It is for this reason that I like to share and promote other people, brands and organizations that are doing the same.

Let's face it, the world seems pretty hell bent on shouting out the negative and only whispering the positive. With the intrusion of social media and internet, this type of negativity becomes easier to spread and it spreads fast. So how do we keep our head up and see all of the amazing things that are happening around us. Because I am here to tell you,

"THEY ARE HAPPENING!"

So why do we shout negativity so loud? My original assumption is that we are hardwired to be negative. And guess what? It is true. During my research I discovered something that researchers call the "negative bias". Turns out we are hardwired for negativity. Our brains actually respond to negative situations  as much as three times more than positive situations. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we had to respond to negative stimuli in a quicker way in order to stay alive. It was the ability to respond to negativity that kept our ancestors positively alive. So if we have evolved in other areas why not in this one?

I could not find a specific answer to this in my research but in reading how to tackle it I think the answer is related to the fact that we respond to the negative bias instead of trying to correct for it.  We accept negativity in our lives and don't demand something more productive. We glorify being busy, dismissive, aloof and sarcasm, all of which actually begat negativity, Why do we think this is so cool?

The other thing that isn't working in our favor is the fact that we think everything is equal, that we respond to emotions the same but we don't. As I mentioned it takes 3x the amount of positivity to impact us. So how do we keep the negative out and invite the positive in?

Research gives a few options that I am going to simplify for us all.

Pay attention to positive things. Did you read a feel good story on your Facebook feed? Did you just read the first paragraph or did you read the whole story? 

We can register negativity right away, which makes sense because feeling bad sucks. With positive emotions/events it takes 5-20 seconds. You know all those diets that tell you to savor your food by chewing each bite multiple times to make the flavor linger and slow down your eating, which in turn allows your brain to get the message of fullness? This is the same concept. Let positive things linger in your life.

Seek out positivity. Too often than not we turn on the news, radio, or read online about all of the tragedies in the world. I am not saying we should ignore what is happening around us but the problem is we don't balance the coverage. Not only do we not give equal time to the negative and the positive, we actually give so little time to positive forces that we have an even bigger hill to climb to feel positive emotions. So watch a video of a baby or kid laughing and hit repeat. There really is no better sound in the world. Don't believe me?

Lastly, be still. You read that right. Be still, and give your brain time to appreciate all that is happening around you. There are so many beautiful things that happen to us every single day but we are rushing through our lives focused on the things we have to fix instead of things we should be enjoying. Many suggest things like gratitude journals to help create this focus.

I am sure there are other ways to combat negativity from other researchers. In the end though I think it is really simple. We have to work to create and accept positivity. Before you let that bum you out and go negative. Take it in, because the research actually proves that working at it works. Watch this amazing Ted Talk called The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance which explains how you can re-wire your brain to be more positive.

At the end, the speakers offers up a 21 day challenge. 21 days is nothing. I'm putting it in the universe right now. Let's do it together. Tell me in the comments below if you are in and let's spread the positivity around. 

You In?